- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2001

Opposition leader
Debate in Washington continues over what title to hand Sen. Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, since a majority is defined as more than half, and Mr. Daschle is the leader of 50 Democrats, or exactly half of the Senate.
"How about Democrat-Independent Coalition Leader or Opposition Party Leader — much the way our parliamentarian friends in [European] countries … take control," suggests political observer Sean Maguire.

Shun the pollster

We suspected it all along: Polling is an inherently flawed enterprise that fails to measure the real interests of respondents and offers no informed guidance to policy-making.
So says the highly respected Cato Institute in Washington, which points out — as every American is aware ad nauseam — that for almost every public policy issue there is an opinion poll commissioned that supposedly determines what the public wants, with the unspoken directive that policy-makers should follow the will of the people.
In "Why Policymakers Should Ignore Public Opinion Polls," author Robert Weissberg, a professor of political science at the University of Illinois, argues that public opinion polling measures the wishes and preferences of respondents, neither of which reflects the costs or risks associated with a policy. As a result, polls are useless to policy-makers who must pay attention to tradeoffs among values, second-best possibilities and unexpected risks.
Says Mr. Weissberg: "Policy-makers should simply ignore the polls and focus on their own judgment."

Unknown honors

President Bush participated in the traditional wreath-laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery over Memorial Day, while another presidential wreath from "The President" was placed at the Arlington Confederate Monument, which shades no fewer than 500 Confederate soldiers buried in Jackson Circle.
"President Bush did not lay the actual wreath," says Tom Findtner, public affairs specialist for the U.S. Army Military District of Washington. "The White House military office coordinates the wreath-layings every Memorial Day.
"According to our historian, its been going on forever," he says of the presidential wreaths.
However, Vicki Heilig, president of the D.C. chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, says shes never seen a presidential wreath at the Confederate Monument until now.
"As usual, I took our [United Daughters] wreath to the Confederate Monument and was flabbergasted to see a wreath already there," she says. "When I read the card and it simply said 'The President, my heart skipped a beat."
Apart from the Confederate Monument, the White House had presidential wreaths placed at the Civil War Tomb of the Unknowns, adjacent to the Robert E. Lee Mansion, where the Confederate general made his home until the start of the Civil War, beneath the mast of the USS Maine, and also at the Spanish-American War Memorial.

Tasteless spook

A controversial CIA officer has posted on his Web site yet another batch of "classified poetry," to the apparent consternation of CIA officials.
The new passages, titled "School of Assassins," were written by John Alejandro King, who dubs himself "The Covert Comic." The new writings poke fun at the CIA, the FBI and conspiracy theories, while claiming to donate profits to Amnesty International and food banks to help the poor.
Selections include "99 Intelligence Documents" (a CIA version of "99 Bottles of Beer"), about the sale of classified documents to foreign spy agencies by CIA employees, as well as "Date with Stalin."
Mr. King says his CIA bosses have characterized his Web site as "tasteless."

Gals and rascals

Some things in life change; some dont.
Recognized by some as the greatest woman fiction writer, Mary Ann Evans wrote under the pen name George Eliot. The author of "Silas Marner," Eliot also wrote "Mill on the Floss," which is about girls from well-to-do families in Victorian England who were never taught to read and write because it wasnt considered necessary for ladies.
Washington malpractice lawyer Jack Olender, his wife, Lovell; and his law partner, Sandra Robinson, were three in the audience of Eliots "Mill on the Floss" currently at the Kennedy Center, after which Mr. Olender noted that Ms. Robinson, as a woman in the legal profession, has attained several high honors, including Trial Lawyer of the Year.
As for things that dont change?
"The miller in the play," Mr. Olender observed, "wanted his son to learn a profession. But he did not want him to be a lawyer because he did not want his son to be a rascal and a scoundrel.
"Unfortunately, public opinion about lawyers hasnt changed much."

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